I love Kate Bush – she added some flair and emotion to my otherwise dull childhood. It’s hard to describe her music without going into full-on hyperbole: ‘cosmic’, ‘mind-expanding’, or plainly ‘awesome’.
Recently, she gave her first live performance since 1979 and there were of course lots of people excited about that. In his latest column, “This awesome dissection of internet hyperbole will make you cry and change your life”, Charlie Brooker uses a friend’s disappointment about the gig to launch a tirade against the over-the-top language that now permeates the web:
Perhaps the impossible-to-live-up-to tidal wave of praise came about in part because [Kate] Bush had been clever enough to ask people not to stand around like mindless absorption pods, dumbly filming the gig on their smartphones. Maybe, with those smartphones tucked away, a sizeable percentage of the audience was being shocked by the reality of their first non screen-parlayed experience of the past five years. It must be like eating salt and vinegar crisps for the first time after weeks of a sense-numbing heavy cold: the sheer rush of unmediated reality almost takes your face off.
But maybe the praise reached deranged heights because nothing’s allowed to simply be “very good” or even “great” any more. We’ve ramped up the hyperbole: it’s amazing; it’s awesome. We focus on the personal impact: it’ll rock your world; it’ll change your life. You’ll be so stuffed full of wonder you’ll split at the seams.
He’s right, of course. Nowadays, it’s impossible to post an Instagram photo of a cupcake without describing it in words that were just a generation ago reserved for describing the most awe-inspiring sights that anyone could hope to see. Sites like Buzzfeed with their horrible genre of clickbait headlines make awe and wonder seem commonplace and even boring. Brooker is not far off the mark with imagined headlines like “The Late Leonid Brezhnev Just Invented the World’s Most Awesome Dance Move. What This Teacher Tells Her Class Will Change Your Life Forever. You Won’t Believe the State of this Guy’s Asshole.”
I wonder if this tidal wave of hyperbole and ‘awesomeness’ has hit China yet. (Clickbait certainly has.) If you know any good examples, you can leave a comment below.